During her recovery from a brutal beating on the Augusta Riverwalk on May 3, Ashley Solesbee has turned to the Bible for advice. The Belvedere resident's source of comfort is this phrase from Colossians 3:13: “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Solesbee remembers those words when she thinks about the two male suspects who were arrested following the incident.
Solesbee, 25, was with Wesley Spires of Edgefield when the attack occurred. They had known each other for about two months and were on what Solesbee considered to be their first official date.
They dined at Stevi B's pizza buffet and went ice skating. Afterward, they weren't ready for their night together to be over, so they decided to relax on a bench on the Riverwalk.
That's when the romantic evening turned into a nightmare. According to various television and newspaper reports, two men approached Solesbee and Spires, demanded money and then hit them with some type of metal bat or pipe.
Solesbee suffered five facial fractures, a laceration on her head that has just recently healed and other injuries.
The damage to Spires, 27, was more serious. He had a skull fracture, a broken right hand and lacerations.
Somehow he and Solesbee made it to his truck, which was parked nearby, and he drove them to the hospital.
“You always know that God is there, but, until something happens, you don't really know that God is there,” Solesbee said. “He performed miracles that night. He saved our lives, and he gave Wesley the strength to save us.”
Spires' brain was bleeding, and he ended up being put into a medically induced coma. In addition, part of Spires' skull was removed while he was being treated.
Both he and Solesbee still are undergoing rehabilitation to help them cope with the harm their bodies suffered. Spires wears a helmet to protect his head until surgeons can replace the portion of his skull that is no longer there with a metal plate.
Spires helps out at several of his family's businesses, answering the telephone and performing other tasks. Eventually, he hopes to return to the landscaping work he enjoys.
His main focus is to move on, so he tries not to spend a lot of time reflecting on the attack.
Solesbee, who was much more talkative, attends Belvedere First Baptist Church. A recent graduate of USC Aiken, she works for the Aiken County Public School District as an applied behavioral therapy aide and teaches dancing at Rhythm & Class Dance Studio in North Augusta.
“The good has outweighed the bad,” Solesbee said. “It has made my faith stronger. I've also learned that I have a bigger support system than I ever thought I had with my church family, my dance family and my school family. The community has come together to help Wesley, and my family and Wesley's family have come together.”
After her alleged attackers' fate has been decided, Solesbee plans to visit them.
“I intend to go see them; both Wesley and I intend to go see them,” she said. “I think they need (to hear) the word of God.”
In mid-July Solesbee and Spires returned to the Riverwalk with her mother, Lisa Solesbee.
“We wanted to see the floodwaters,” Ashley Solesbee said.
At one point, they passed by the bench where the May beating took place.
“It didn't bother me,” Solesbee said. “It's just a bench.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013.